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We tasted French fries at five major fast food chains — and these are the only ones worth buying

INSIDER logoINSIDER 7/11/2018 feedback@thisisinsider.com (Joanna Fantozzi)

a cup of coffee on a table: Fries © Provided by Business Insider Inc Fries Joanna Fantozzi

  • We taste-tested French fries from five different major fast food chains.
  • The fries were ranked based on crispiness, freshness, flavor, potato quality, saltiness, and quantity.
  • McDonald's was ranked last, while Chick-fil-A came out on top.
  • This is part of an ongoing INSIDER taste test series. Previously we compared fried chicken, vanilla milkshakes, and doughnuts.

"Would you like fries with that?" The answer is always yes. After all, French fries the quintessential, make-or-break part of any fast food meal. Even a great fast food burger would be totally ruined by a side of soggy, tasteless fries.

INSIDER wanted to get to the bottom of the great French fry debate and visited five of the major fast food chains on the same day to rank the quality of their fries.

We sampled fries from five popular fast food chains:

  • McDonald's
  • Burger King
  • Wendy's
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Five Guys

Although Arby's curly fries often make it to the top of fry rankings, we feel that curly fries are a different beast, thanks to their seasoning. Likewise, KFC's potato wedges are too different to compare to your classic shoestring fry. 

We came up with a totally scientific algorithm based on  crispiness, freshness, flavor, potato quality, saltiness, and quantity. Each quality is ranked out of 5.

This is part of an ongoing INSIDER taste test series. Previously we compared fried chicken, vanilla milkshakes, and doughnuts.

Here is our fry ranking, from worst to best:

5)McDonald's - 15/30

McDonalds fries © Provided by Business Insider Inc McDonalds fries Joanna Fantozzi

I bet you were surprised to see the Golden Arches at the bottom of the list, right? Once upon a time, it was no contest. McDonald's fries were once world-renowned for their signature hot, golden crispiness. But instead, we were disappointed by how limp and thin these fries were, with way more "crisp" than potato. They also had an unappealing "chemical" aftertaste that could be attributed to old oil in the fryer. At least they were really hot!

Crispiness: 3

Flavor: 1.5

Potato quality: 1.5

Freshness: 3.5

Saltiness: 2

Quantity: 3.5

4) Wendy's - 15.5/30

a sandwich sitting on top of a table: PROMO_Wendys © Provided by Business Insider Inc PROMO_Wendys Joanna Fantozzi

Wendy's fries were disappointingly bland and the salt was unevenly distributed throughout the bunch, making for an unpleasant tasting experience. We did like that they were dry and not greasy, and were hand-cut, so you could taste some potato skin. It made the French fries feel a lot less mass-produced. The "fry oil has not been changed in awhile" aftertaste was strong with this bunch, however.

Crispiness: 2.5

Flavor: 2

Potato quality: 3

Freshness: 3

Saltiness: 2

Quantity: 3

3) Burger King - 20.5/30

a sandwich sitting on top of a table next to a cup of coffee: PROMO_Burger king © Provided by Business Insider Inc PROMO_Burger king Joanna Fantozzi

The Burger King fries were a pleasant surprise. They were thicker-cut than we remembered, with a crispy outside and warm potato-y inside. Our batch contained no disappointing cheap "end fries" from the bottom of the fryer. The fries also tasted very fresh, but could have used more salt. We were a bit disappointed by the "processed" aftertaste that seems to plague all large-scale commercial French fries, but overall would not mind chowing down on BK fries again.

Crispiness: 4

Flavor: 3.5

Potato quality: 4

Freshness: 4

Saltiness: 2.5

Quantity: 2.5

2) Five Guys - 24.5/30

a basket of fries and a cup of coffee: Five Guys fries © Provided by Business Insider Inc Five Guys fries Joanna Fantozzi

With piles of potato bags on the floor at check-out, it's obvious that Five Guys Burgers & Fries prides themselves on a super-fresh French fry. These fries were indeed very fresh, and actually tasted the most like their ancestral food, the potato. They had a nuanced flavor with no hint of a weird after-taste. You might find similar fries at a mom and pop restaurant. The only catch is that they were SUPER greasy, like drip-through-the-bag, need-extra-napkins greasy. As a result, the fries weren't as crispy as they could be. But they were so delicious and plentiful that we weren't complaining too much. 

Crispiness: 2

Flavor: 4.5

Potato quality: 5

Freshness: 5

Saltiness: 3

Quantity: 5

1) Chick-fil-A - 25/30

a piece of cake sitting on top of a table: Chick fil A fries © Provided by Business Insider Inc Chick fil A fries Joanna Fantozzi

Chick-fil-A might serve waffle fries, but they still taste close enough to the traditional fry to be able to fairly compare them. After much deliberation, Chick-fil-A is our runaway winner! The aroma of these waffle fries made our stomachs growl (even after a long, greasy afternoon of tasting fries). The crisp to potato ratio was perfect, and the fries tasted homemade, without any hint of an "old oil" aftertaste. Our only complaint is that the medium sized order of fries only came with 11, and we could have scarfed down at least twice that!

Crispiness: 4.5

Flavor: 5

Potato quality: 4

Freshness: 4.5

Saltiness: 4.5

Quantity: 2.5

Related video: This Texas restaurant serves massive mountains of French fries

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